If Congress doesn’t act to stop roughly $100 billion in spending cuts set to take effect in January, Virginia could take one of the biggest economic hits of any state, potentially losing up to 123,000 jobs, according to some estimates.
Fearing that possibility, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) urged lawmakers Wednesday to address the spending concerns soon in order to stave off deep confusion and concern among contractors in his state and across the country.
“I’ve talked to CEOs all over the country in the last few weeks on this issue. They’re either scared, or confused or just downright uncertain as to what this means,” the governor said. “And to sacrifice United States military readiness and to sacrifice 123,000 military jobs in Virginia and hundreds of thousands around the country because Congress can’t set priorities and the Senate won’t take up a budget — it’s just the wrong thing for America. Act now, it’s going to be a campaign issue anyway, let’s get this done now.”
McDonnell came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for his semi-annual meeting with lawmakers to discuss federal concerns. His appearance came as executives with some of the nation’s largest defense contractors warned lawmakers at a House hearing that the spending cuts — commonly referred to as “sequestration” — posed a calamitous threat to their businesses, and that thousands of jobs were on the line unless lawmakers find an alternative way to shrink the deficit.
McDonnell said that that several of his Democratic and Republican counterparts agreed at last weekend’s meetings of the National Governors Association to deliver similar messages to their state delegations: “Come on guys, get with the program, you’ve got to fix this sequestration problem.”
“Sequestration was supposed to be a hammer, not really to go into effect – at least that’s what everybody thought – and now we’re at the eleventh hour,” he said. He was referring to the fact that the deal reached last summer was designed to be a temporary solution to compel lawmakers to reach a longer-term deal to address the nation's ballooning deficit.
McDonnell added that years of congressional inaction have led many of his gubernatorial colleagues to marvel at the behavior of House and Senate lawmakers.
“We [governors] live in a world where we have to balance budget, we can’t make excuses, we have to get things done and we have a hard time relating to the preference for inaction in the Congress,” he said. “A lot of things have been done in the House, on sequestration, on budget reconciliation, and the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over three years. All of us would be run out of town with people chasing us if we ran our governments this way. The drama we went through with the debt ceiling debate and the failure of the supercommittee — we can’t do that again. ”
Virginia’s Democratic federal lawmakers boycotted the meeting with McDonnell because the governor and his GOP colleagues planned to hold a news conference afterward to accuse the Obama administration and Senate Democrats of holding up negotiations over the spending cuts. McDonnell later cancelled the news conference in deference to Democratic concerns, but the Democrats still failed to show up.
McDonnell called the Democrats’ actions “unbelievably petty and partisan,” and said that if he ever ran into them he’d deliver them a simple message: “Get with the program.”
“You’re putting hundreds of thousdands of jobs in my state at risk and you’re putting the United States military in a very bad circumstance when they’re fighting a war abroad and trying to figure out how they’re going to govern themselves,” McDonnell said. “It’s not responsible governing. They need to act, they need to act now, and it’s not just Republican governors, Democrat governors as well share this belief that this horrific and unprecedented uncertainty created by the United States Congress.”
An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported that House Majority Leader Erc Cantor (R-Va.) was also involved in cancelling the news conference. The story has been corrected.
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